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During the last winter journey through Russia, I was haunted by this cute little bear while driving through the Kostroma and Vologda regions. He suddenly appeared at the most unexpected spots - on an abandoned and decaying bus stop in the middle of a deserted village, on old billboards, and in some small shops along the way. I didn't recognize the symbolism of the Olympic rings on the bear's belt, but later learned "Мишка" was the mascot of the 1980's Olympic Games in Moscow.

I
too am an 80's child. Being born in 1973, I experienced the 80's in full force, at the height of my teenage years. However, it's difficult to find a common thread when comparing American cultural symbols from the 80's and prior decades with the treasured symbols from the same Soviet periods. This is not surprising given that our nations were seen as political and strategic enemies at that point in history, and sadly even now to a certain extent. The bear played an integral role in the last place I visited during the journey, the "Museum of the Socialist Way of Life", located in Kazan. Let's take a look inside...Read more... )
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If time travel ever becomes possible, I would transport myself back to Moscow or the province in the 1970's or 80's to better understand the realities of life in Soviet times. Looking at old photos in books or online, I can hardly envision such a system of life where everything is so structured and predestined. This is the eternal debate amongst my older Russian friends and readers - the pros and cons of life in the USSR vs. modern day Russia. Tonight I read an article written by a man who was only nine years old when the Soviet Union collapsed. However, he claims this was long enough to form a strong enough opinion about life in the USSR to know that he never wishes to return. His observations seem a bit shallow and naive on the surface. He takes a few of the most commonly expressed strengths of the Soviet system, and explains why they are misconceptions. Please remember these are not my personal views, but the opinions of a former resident in the Soviet Union. Let's begin with education...Read more... )
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The long road trip in Russia is now over. I just returned to Moscow this afternoon from Yaroslavl, where I finally met a Russian boyfriend, who spoke almost no English! :)) He came to our table, sat down, started petting my hair, blowing me kisses and trying to have a lot of conversation over coconut beer. Each trip, it's necessary to explore the local bars for one night, and one night only. It started at a basic pub, and then onward to a Soviet style kitchen, with a unique feature!Read more... )
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I'll never know or experience life during Soviet times, but during some of my visits to Russia I feel like I'm transported back to that era, or even another century. The road trip is coming to an end, with the final stop today in Yaroslavl. Along the way, I explored many small towns and spent an entire day and night in a village, talking to the locals in their homes, eating freshly prepared meals, and sleeping alone in an old house in the forest! But that will be the topic of another post. Yesterday in Soligalich, I entered a small meat shop and discovered this woman. I don't know for certain, but this blue uniform looks very Soviet, especially the hat. However, the most interesting thing in the provincial shops was...can you guess from the photo? :)Answer )
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I don't know about you, but I love sudden bursts of nostalgia at unexpected moments. Without our past, we're nothing. Everything about it shapes us into the person we are today, for both good and bad. It happened to me recently during the Mid-West journey, when I entered a shop that sold vintage games and toys from my childhood. For a brief second, I was transported back to age 10, when I used to sit with my younger sister and play with Transformers, Lite-Brite, Speak 'n' Spell, Mr. Potato Head and other treasures from the 1980's. Some of you probably don't even recognize these toys. :)

In the middle of rural Estonia last autumn, I stumbled upon a small village that houses old Soviet cars. A sort of refuge for abandoned cars in need of some care and company. While I'm fascinated with all things from the USSR, seeing these relics stirred no emotion within me but I could see it arising in my Russian travel companion. I don't know the feeling of boarding a bus in Soviet times, sitting on a hard chair, or being chased by a tiny police car. But today I'll show you some photos from this village, and perhaps for a brief moment your childhood memories will also be awakened...Read more... )
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For the past few weeks, Ilya Varlamov has published posts incorporating photos from Moscow in the late 1980's - early 90's. I love these! Amazing to see how the country looked right before the collapse of the USSR. In today's post, I saw this photo from 1990. A massive queue to enter the first McDonald's in Moscow! I can't imagine such a scene, or how this fast food chain symbolized so much to people at that time. In 1990, I was 17. A senior in high school, getting ready to graduate and enter university, and closely following events overseas.

What other places, items and things did Soviet citizens associate with America before the collapse? My aunt visited Russia in the early 1980's, and she told me stories about locals asking her for bubble gum and wanting to buy her Levi's, straight off her body. This is no joke.

This is what makes Russia so fascinating to me - very rich and diverse history, constantly shifting and changing. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. Not sure how most Russians feel about the current direction in which Russia is moving...I hope you feel for the better, because it's depressing and sad to live in a place where you feel absolutely no hope or prospect for the future. I have never once felt this way about my life in America...

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